From studying FarOut this morning I determined that I would be going up, then down, up then down, and then up and down again. What a day I had planned!
The rain had drenched everything and I walked slowly through the wet….I wanted the miles to take all day, but like before, hiking slow seemed to lower my mood. I was in an unexplained funk.
I stopped to take breaks when the sun popped through, but always the rain returned. I even tried an optimistic lunch and strung up a drying line for some of the wettest gear, but the rain shut that down quick. Me and my funk continued on.
Today’s mantra: Just keep moving.
I read some more of my post-apocalyptic book and was struck by this page:
As I lumbered down the trail I passed a guy who recognized me. Scavenger and I had met at some hiker gathering out west, he was out to hike the Long Trail. 👣👣👣 happy trails Scavenger!
Even though I was moving slow, I made it to my destination mid-afternoon. I set up my stuff and this time the sun stayed out when I hung my wet out to dry.
I got up out of the tent to do something and wobbled around, unsteady on my feet. This often happens when I stand up after a while… I am unencumbered from the usual weight of the pack and don’t have the hiking poles to give me the extra stability these used and abused feet have come to rely on. This time I wobbled, stumbled, and fell….on my tent, and broke a pole.
“Welp,” I thought, “I guess that means the hike is over.”
I took a tent stake and begged some tape from another hiker at the shelter to splint the pole. It was ugly, the tent leans heavily to the broken side, but it stayed up.
I decided to finish tomorrow and truly be done. I could try to stretch out the paltry 20 miles to where I was getting picked up, but I knew the pull of the end would be strong, and now with this major injury to my kit, I was ready to call it.
The rain lasted all night, but I stayed dry and cozy in my tent.
The first order of the day was climbing Stratton Mountain….a special spot where the Long Trail was just a sparkle in some dude’s eye…which really led to the whole long distance trail thing in the U.S….thank you James Taylor!
The rain actually held off most of the day; from the forecast I had been expecting it all day, but was definitely willing to take less than that.
It was a green and dripping hike. I had an occasional view of a bog or pond, but it was primarily an exercise in walking the green tunnel today.
Mid-afternoon I popped out at a gravel road to find some trail magic. 2020 was a 2019 sobo (he is in the market for a new trail name… 2020 isn’t something he wants to carry around anymore). I had a cold root beer (!!) and a donut, and met another sobo. Ducky had only started a few days after me, but somehow I was just meeting him for the first time. Funny how that happens.
The afternoon was mellow and uneventful and I reached my destination (a shelter with a RARE view) fairly early. I set my tent up on a bunch of roots (which wouldn’t become truly uncomfortable until later) and chatted with some nobos that had rolled in. I guess I will be surrounded by nobos for the whole two months I am out here…a truly astonishing number of people all striving for big K.
After a lackluster dinner (a Knorr side…again) I dove into a new book, this one a post-apocalyptic tale told from the point of view of a first nation’s tribe in Canada. It makes me want to start prepping in earnest.
So NEMO lives close enough that she will pick me up in a few days for a night at her farm before I fly out. When we were talking about how far I’d get she tossed out some lofty numbers…and I just don’t want to do 20+ mile days at this point. I think I could, but I don’t feel like it, so I will stop once I reach the first town in Massachusetts. That sounds like four medium sized days. Perfect for this middle-aged woman (but to be honest…I don’t really feel middle-aged. Is it the hiking? 🤔)
When I woke in the king sized bed (🙌), I did morning things and hit the hot continental breakfast hard. I was outta there around 10ish, and I walked the mile or so to the post office so send some things away. Third pair of socks? Who needs you anyway!
I made one last stop at Zoey’s Deli on my way out of town and couldn’t resist the cookie as big as my head. Then I had barely pulled out my tyvek to hold up the “To Trail” part when a woman pulled over and offered me a ride. Vermonters like the hikers!
The walking was very nice today…smooth and fewer things to trip on than normal. I met a fellow sandal wearer and we chatted toes and twisted ankles for a minute and I had to switch to my chacos after that of course.
One of the highlights was a mile gravel road walk (I LOVE a gravel road walk) and the gate. The gate was very popular on FarOut.
It was well into the afternoon when I was suddenly struck: today was August 22, my AT-aversary! Average Joe and I climbed Katadhin 20 years ago today. Today of all days was one to commemorate, and I usually do that by having a little treat 😁.
I walked the rest of the afternoon in a happy meandering. When it started to rain I stepped into my rainskirt and popped up my umbrella…it was the perfect trail for an umbrella, and the rain fell hard enough that I felt 100% that it had been worth carrying it for all this time just for today.
I arrived at the Stratton Pond Shelter and met Nigel hiking out. He had on Long Trail garb, and I had been expecting to connect with the caretaker at this popular spot; I had an inside connection! Here is another tale of the trail community providing: Green Mountain Girl had hiked some of the Oregon Desert Trail a few years ago, and we communicated a lot before, during, and after her trip. She has been so rad, and even sent me a gallon of Vermont maple syrup when she returned home from Oregon as a thank you (So nice!). When she heard that I’d be hiking some of the AT she mentioned she wanted to trail angel me (she works for the Long Trail as well 👍). She arranged for the caretaker here at Stratton Pond to hike in some beer for me…and after talking to Nigel and finding out he wasn’t my awaited contact and than in fact it was the caretakers’s day off, I had my instructions to look on their tent platform and I’d find a beer there with my name on it. Literally!
Haa, so nice!! My little treat! Happy trailaversary to me and Average Joe!
I magic’d two of the three beers to a couple of Long Trail hikers, and come to find out Cowabunga has also completed his nobo AT thru 10 years ago this week. Cheers to us!
So I didn’t mention yesterday that I had come to the top of Bromley Mountain and found a camping paradise. I hadn’t read all the FarOut comments, and had been focused on a shelter that was a mile further away, but when I crested the last climb, definitely grumbling as the climbs had been steep and rocky and the day long, I was awe-struck by the grassy clearing and hikers setting up their tents. I went up to a nobo who confirmed, yes, there is camping and a privy and even a building with outlets we can use. Oh happy day! The ski lift of the resort towered over the south side of the mountain and the clouds and sun were already giving off a pretty dramatic show when I arrived. It was a much needed boost to my moral at the end of a long day.
So this morning when I woke for my usual pre-dawn business, I could see from the hints of red on the horizon that it was going to be a stunner of a sunrise. By the time I made my coffee others had peaked their heads out and we were all basking in the rare sight of a sunrise on the AT (too many trees to get a regular view like this.)
I soaked it in before starting down the mountain. It was a great start to day 50. I cleared cobwebs from the trail with my face almost the whole three miles down. Yuck.
When I reached the trailhead and highway I started chatting with a woman who was hiking the long trail when a car full of nobo hikers pulls up. Jeff from the hostel in town was running them to the trail and offered to give me a ride to town. Oh happy day! My first item of business was breakfast. He took me to a cute breakfast joint where I put the hurt on some eggs. Then laundry. I wouldn’t be able to shower till I got to the hotel room, I like to shower before doing laundry usually, but the order of operations would have to be switched today.
Then resupply at the grocery across the way, then I decided to pop my head in some of the outlet stores that Manchester Center is known for. I might want to wear something other than hiking clothes on the plane or when I visit my folks (I’m spending a few days with my parents in Louisiana before I fly back to Oregon). I got a few tops….I had been looking for a dress, but I am not a fan of the options I had before me in a few stores, and the pant options were not appealing either. Am I an old lady when I don’t want to wear any of the fashions that are out now? Yuck. I’ll mail the shirts and a few things from my pack to my folk’s house tomorrow…I can lighten up my pack a bit for sure. Less than 100 miles to go to Massachusetts and my end point!
I ran a few more errands before waking over to the hotel. They let me use the pool even though I was early, and I stayed there till my room was ready.
The room had a tub! I had been banking on that and had picked up some epson salts in hopes that I would finally get a chance to soak. Devine. I had new nail polish for my toes, a moisturizing mask for my face, and new shirt. Look out Manchester Center!
I splurged big time on dinner down the street at Ye Old Tavern. It was historical and expensive and so delicious.
I couldn’t find anything worth watching on the 10000 channels of cable (seriously, there was NOTHING of value…cable has become nothing but infomercials and junk) so watched some netflix on my phone instead.
I can’t seem to get the legs moving into their usual groove. I have a steady 3mph pace, but that speed was impossible in the northern two states as you literally have to pick your way carefully through the rocks to go anywhere. It’s as if my body got used to that slower canter, and I can only reasonably, not quickly, move down the trail. Maybe it’s because I don’t have a destination or ultimate goal. Maybe I’m not trying to beat winter, or finish by Thanksgiving (those factors usually put the fire under other sobo’s toes). So I guess it doesn’t matter that I’m moving slower than normal…or maybe this is normal now?
I listen to music and podcasts all day…it’s an internal day. For NEMO’s visit I was very external, telling stories and absorbing hers….I barely talk today, and that’s ok, I need this too.
One of the podcasts that sparked some deep thoughts today was Tim Ferriss’s interview of Will MacAskill. In the face of so much change and potential for disaster, he has a very uplifting world view…and a compelling call to action.
Dare I say I am choosing hope and action in place of despair and immobilization? On day 48 I am. If you have a couple of hours give it a listen.
I take long breaks and read my spy book. The trail is mostly green tunnel today, but that fits my slow, meditative, and thoughtful walking.
Before anything notable happens, I’m at camp. Oops, something notable did happen…I passed the 500 mile mark. Well, I actually reached 500 miles yesterday, but this marked the AT miles I’ve hiked.
The rain fell hard all night, which is good for all the dry little creeks and streams out there. I decided to splurge on a morning shower and stood under the warm water for several quarters worth of time. State parks have it going on with all these amenities…if you can put up with the traffic and people.
We took it slow this morning; Retread was heading home, Anonymous was flying out tomorrow, and the two nobos were getting dropped off for their Katadhin quest. It’s strange just having hiked what they have left to do. I refrain from saying too much about what they have ahead…I don’t always like it when others do that to me…regardless, they will get a ton of advice from all the others coming south too. It’s hard, they wanna know what they are in store for, but I don’t think you really can prepare yourself for New Hampshire and Maine, you just have to experience it.
The hype around the trail south of here is: “so flat, you can do big days, it’s nothing like what you experienced in the north.” The challenges down here are more like: ticks, heat, and…hmmm, what else??? Maybe not so much the heat anymore. The sobos got hammered by long periods of really hot (like in the 90s AND incredibly humid hot. No thank you.)
I walked out of camp and to the trail. A short up got the blood flowing. Solo again. I would be solo through my last 100ish miles when I made it to, hmmm, not sure yet. I can get off trail and to Albany, NY from any number of places in the next week. When I looked at a map, Albany sat to the east, and a wagon wheel of roads burst into the mountains of Vermont and Massachusetts. I could hop off the trail and to the airport from just about anywhere.
And then I was on the Long Trail. About 100 miles of the Appalachian Trail and Long Trail share the same tread south of here…the northern portion of the 200ish mile trail traverses the spine of mountains north of here to Canada. Also the Long Trail is the first long distance trail in country. Respect!
The big feature of the day would be to climb Killington, Vermont’s second highest peak. It also has the region’s biggest ski resort. I passed on the climb to the top (via a steep 0.2 side trail) and snack bar because the forest was in a cloud, and I had too much food on my back. I remember racing up there with Average Joe in 2002 and snacking hard. The views were great too.
The rain had stopped shortly after I had started hiking yesterday, but the dense and thick greenery made for a drenched walk all the same. It was beautiful.
I ambled to a stop early. I had already made a reservation at a nice hotel in Manchester Center, a three+ day hike from my zero. I had plenty of time to hike there, too much food once again, and another book that was getting interesting – this one a British spy novel set in the 1970s.
I made the coffee so strong this morning that I was jittery for the first mile of the trail…which probably helped me get up the big climb of the day. The day, though, would be short. We had places to be! Things to wash!
We walked by the beautiful Ethan Pond and into the state park after the quick morning and there was Carrie! She met us on the trail with a zip lock for each of us: small bar of soap, small shampoo and conditioner bottles, and enough quarters for a 10 minute shower. What a fabulous welcome, but even better, it was so good to see my friend again.
We walked into a campsite where Retread, the amazing trail angel that made this rendezvous happen, is parked with his camper, and I met the nobo slack packers of the hour: #2 Pencil and Nightingale.
So, let’s see if I get the story right: #2 and Nightingale met Retread last year when another hiker held a gathering to talk about prepping for the trail. Retread has been following the two hiker’s progress as they made their way north (hiking separately I believe) and offered to angel them when they got north. Well, they got north, so the three decided on a 4-day slack pack session where Retread would hold down the fort at the campground and drive them up and back to the trail each day. They would hike 10-20 miles and come back to the campground for rest and pampering each night. Carrie had just gotten off trail, but since meeting #2 (and the two of them hitting it off) had wanted us all to meet, and we thought when #2 and I crossed paths would be the chance. Sooooo, here we are! Our paths converge, Carrie and Retread connected and he brought her here. The two nobos will get some miles in, NEMO will get picked up tomorrow, and I get to see Carrie again and meet #2! It’s amazing all these moving parts came together 😃
We walk in, I make a beeline for the showers and emerge fresh as a dew drop. I was wearing some loner clothes so I didn’t have to put my stanky ones back on and soon we were lunching on a picnic table with a table cloth on it. Classy! Retread is an amazing host and has thought of everything. I’m grateful they have welcomed us into their well orchestrated camping trip.
After lunch we decide its laundry time and all load up into Retread’s truck. We find a place in Rutland called Washbucklers (I chose it for the name). Once we accomplished that mission it was food time, both for consuming and resuppling.
Mountain Spice, a 2015 CDT hiker I met and hiked through some of northern Montana with, joined us for dinner at the Yellow Deli, an infamous restaurant run by a religious community. We feast, and then do a haphazard resupply (I hadn’t figured out where I was going next or what I needed) where I basically just tossed things I like to eat in the cart.
Back at camp we managed a short hang out sesch before hiker midnight struck, and we were all tucked in, lulled to sleep by the two busy highways rumbling almost next to our ears.